TO: The President of the United States
CC: Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, National Security Advisor Gen. James L. Jones
FROM: Douglas A. Ollivant & Eric D. Chewning
DATE: March 1, 2010
SUBJECT: Starting Over in Iraq
In Iraq, your Administration has inherited perhaps the least popular U.S. foreign endeavor in a generation. With the June 30, 2009 U.S. military pullback from the urban areas now complete, civil violence contained, the government of Iraq better established, the situation in Afghanistan deteriorating and challenges from Yemen looming, the chorus of voices calling for a complete withdrawal from Iraq grows louder every day. This reaction is understandable, but also potentially dangerous, because the coming U.S. drawdown, if not properly executed, will significantly damage American influence during Iraq’s formative years or, worse, create a political vacuum that will destabilize the region. Iraq’s successful emergence from decades of Ba‘athi depredations, war, occupation and near civil collapse is not a foregone conclusion. Plenty could still go very wrong, and some of it surely will, though it’s impossible to predict just what (for example, an impasse over the status of political candidates with previous ties to the Ba‘ath Party). American statesmen need to summon the imagination needed to think about Iraq as it is today, without the baggage of recent years. Iraq’s strategic location, vast oil wealth and newfound political realignment matter significantly to the U.S. national interest.
We need what amounts to a soft-power campaign plan for Iraq along three lines of operation. First, the United States must retain a small residual military presence for continued advisory and assistance missions. Second, the State Department must expand the scope of its diplomatic effort to include building Iraqi institutions, serving as an honest broker between sectarian factions and supporting Iraq as it deals with its neighbors. Third, the U.S. government must increase its efforts to develop and diversify the Iraqi economy.
Residual Military Assistance
After toppling Saddam’s regime, America’s military mission in Iraq took on three roles: to neutralize internal elements hostile to the government of Iraq and the multinational coalition; to defend Iraq from external threats; and to train the Iraq Security Forces (ISF) to eventually take up the first two roles. Today, the ISF is capable of conducting this internal security mission on its own, and a small, residual U.S. military presence, combined with offshore airpower, can deter a regional aggressor. The key to continued U.S. military engagement, then, is adding to ISF capability without exposing American troops to attacks they cannot effectively respond to, given the constraints of the November 2008 Status of Forces Agreement.
As you announced in your...